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Bikepacking Circuit on Anticosti Island

Exploration from the National Park to the West tip

Photos and Text by Taavi Rutishauser

After doing overnighters and a few weekend bikepacking trips to train myself and test my setup, it was time to do a longer trip, but where?  I’ve had Anticosti Island on my mind for a while, wondering if it could be that epic bikepacking ride I’ve been searching for. Sure like most bikepackers I drooled over the thoughts of riding the Colorado Trail or the Great Divide, but with all the wilderness available to us in Quebec I just knew there had to be that one special place where not many bikepackers have been, a place with great potential to become a bikepacking mecca, right in my backyard. With that in mind, and a roundtrip boat ride ticket in hand, I loaded the bags on my Panorama Chic Chocs fatbike and hit the road to ANTICOSTI ISLAND!!

After driving 1000 km, I finally arrive in Rivière-Au-Tonnerre, a small village on Quebec’s Côte-Nord. That’s where my boat, the Express Anticosti, is waiting to bring me to Anticosti Island. I meet the captain, who tells me that the boat ride is delayed because of high winds. So with 2 days to wait, and with great advices from friendly locals, me and my bike set off to go explore the region. Logging roads, rivers and falls, ATV trails, and nice wild camping spots on the sea side.

Wednesday morning 6am, I load my 65lbs fatbike on the Express Anticosti and off we go! 3 hours later, we arrive in Port Menier, Anticosti’s only town. After a quick stop to get information, I head to the campground where I meet a bikepacking couple who tells me a group of Scouts is looking for someone to share a rental pickup truck. The Scouts and I agree to meet the next morning in town and drive together into Sépaq territory. Meanwhile, I spend the rest of the day exploring the western point.

Next morning, I head to Sépaq’s welcome center to pay in advance for all my camping and Park fees. There I meet my Scouts and we load the Panorama in the pickup’s bed and off we go! By taking this lift, I save myself the section of the Trans-Anticosti hwy where the logging transport traffic is the heaviest and I can catch up on my 2 days lost because of the boat. The scouts drop me at the entrance of the Sépaq, where I jump on the bike and start pedaling towards Wilcox Campground at least 60km ahead. I stop at Sépaq’s chalet in Macdonald, where I discover they have a nice fancy restaurant. I spoil myself with some seafood, taking a break from freeze dried food, before heading back on the Trans-Anticosti hwy towards the Wilcox Campground. An amazing view and hot showers sure are appreciated after a day pedaling the dusty Trans-Anticosti. Drivers here are extremely courteous with cyclists, especially the truck drivers, who almost come to a complete stop when they see cyclists!!

Wilcox Campground will be my home for a few nights, while I explore the trails and canyons in Anticosti National Park. My first plans before arriving in Anticosti was to ride around the island only on beaches, but I quickly realized by talking with locals that no way was I going to do that in less than 2 weeks. So I decided to take my time and spend this trip riding the northern part and western point, one day at the time. It was my first long bike trip after all!

I rode the Canyon de l’Observation along with the Sentiers des Falaises which offers an amazing view on the canyon and trails to ride. Then it was time to head to the Canyon de la Vauréal, with the goal to ride my fatbike down in the canyon and to the bottom of the Vauréal falls, an adventure usually done by foot! That was a brutal but mesmerizing experience, riding huge rock gardens, crossing the river many times all along the way to the falls through the canyon. And finally, going around the last corner. Then voilà, the falls!! Just wow! I did it, 25% hike a bike but made it to the falls! What a feeling to stand at the bottom of the falls, surrounded by the canyon! I walked on the way back to enjoy the scenery, and rode back to Wilcox Campground for a good night sleep after 90km .

After my first week camping, and 2 straight days of rain in a one person tent eating freeze dried food, I decided I needed to get back west to Port Menier and spend the 2nd week exploring the western point or the Residents sector as they call it. Riding solo was starting to affect my mental state, and add fatigue to that so it was best for me to head west. Once back in Port Menier, I was able to buy some fresh food, fruits and eat a real good breakfast. My Panorama fatbike setup was a hit with ATV/Motocross riding locals, and they opened up to me about great trails to ride.

The canyons were amazing, but I knew that I would find what I came for in the western point. And I found it indeed! Riding the rocky beaches at low tide from l’Anse Aux Fraises all the way back to Port Menier, I was in heaven! Except for that last bay which was a smelly algue swamp mixed with deep salty mud, but made it through! Absolutely amazed by my Panorama’s ability to go through stuff I never thought I’d cross!

After a few days of going all around the western point, and again some advice from locals, I go big for my last bike riding day. I leave Port Menier, entering a ATV trail that brought me all the way to the sea, through thick forest, swamps, and cool rocky descents down to the beach. I arrive in Petit Makasti bay, under a hot sun and nobody around me except dozens of deers sleeping or walking on the beach. I follow the beach along a few lagoons, with forest on my left and the blue sea on my right. I ride past the Chute à Boulay and onto a dirt road that brings me down to Baie Ste Claire, where early settlers used to live. So much history around here on the western point, you can feel it! I ride the rocky road past the Calou shipwreck, one of Anticosti’s many shipwrecks, to the Auberge de la pointe ouest, where you can camp and have access to the showers. Following the advice of a local adventure guide, I take an old trail that brings me along the coast to l’Anse aux Fraises. From there I ride back to the logging road and back to my campground in Port Menier to end this epic day with 65km of pure happiness!!

After 2 days relaxing in Port Menier, washing the bike and spending time with my local friends, I load the Panorama back on the Express Anticosti boat for the return ride to Rivière-au-tonnerre on a calm sea and whales all around us. I know I found my bikepacking playground and will be back very soon to explore the parts I haven’t seen yet! And bringing fellow bikepackers along with me this time!


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